Growing Our Tea
Sri Lanka is a unique country of origin because the tropical climate allows for continual, year-round harvesting. The island features striking microclimates ideal for tea production. There are three growing elevations and seven growing regions or districts.
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The Tea Growing Districts
Like the great wine-growing regions of France, the tea country of Sri Lanka is divided up into seven strictly-defined regions or ‘districts’, each
known for producing teas of a particular character. There is considerable variation between sub-districts and individual estates, between successive crops taken from the same estate in successive years and even between different hillsides on the same estate. Yet despite such differences, the regional character of the tea is always evident to the experienced taster or connoisseur.
Just like the Appellations d’origines côntrolées of France, the use of the names of the tea-growing regions of Sri Lanka is strictly restricted and controlled. Only teas that conform to a registered, legal definition of origin and manufacture can bear the name of a given district. First, the tea must have been grown entirely within a particular ‘agro-climatic region’ (the technical term for ‘district’). This usually implies a particular altitude range as well; for example, tea from Uva district will have been grown at an altitude between 1000 and 1600m (3,300-5,300ft.) above sea level, while Nuwara Eliya tea will have been cultivated at a higher altitude range, averaging 2,000m (6,600ft).
The Tea Growing Altitudes
Tea in Sri Lanka is classified by elevation: low, medium or high grown. Each is distinct, creating remarkable variety for a country which produces almost exclusively black tea.
Pahata Rata “Low Country Grown” (Sea Level-2,000 ft): Teas grown in the plains and foothills of Sri Lanka from the Ratnapura (in the Sabaragamuwa Province) and Ruhuna districts produce full bodied, colorful and hearty cups of tea, perfect for cream and sugar. These plantations are newer in comparison to the others having been started in the early twentieth century. The leaves are often larger, fuller and wirier in appearance. In recent years, a lovely silver-tipped tea from the Ratnapura region has grown in popularity here in the U.S.
Medarata “Mid Country Grown” (2,000-4,000 ft) : These medium-altitude teas from Kandy and Uda Pussellawa, tend towards the medium and full bodied with a refreshing citrusy tang, brisk fruity notes and balanced astringency.
Udarata “High Country Grown” (over 4,000 ft): The higher elevation teas from Uva, some from Uda Pussellawa , Dimbula and Nuwara Eliya can resemble a Darjeeling with their golden liquors and fresh, sweet aromas. The colorful dry leaf can even appear similar to the autumn hues of Himalayan teas. Like most Ceylons, these lean more toward a citrus note than muscat grape, the signature of a Darjeeling. Pleasantly crisp, medium bodied and floral – the perfect afternoon cup of tea.
‘Quality Seasons’ and Microclimates
Sri Lanka is exposed to two Indian Ocean weather systems, known locally as the northeast and southwest monsoons. The first brings rain between December and March, the second between June and September. The central mountains form a windbreak and watershed, sheltering with their mass the hillsides and the plains on either side of them; thus southern and western parts of the island do not receive the winds and rains of the northeast monsoon, while northern and eastern areas are sheltered from the southwest monsoon. This results not only in a different period of rainfall on either side of the mountains, but also an annual ‘quality seasons’, when the monsoon winds, leached of their moisture, pass over the central watershed to bring cool, dry weather to the terrain on the opposite side.
Up among the hills and mountains, however, the complex topography results in an equally complex microclimatic picture, with different areas receiving varying patterns of wind and precipitation from the two weather systems throughout the year. Thus, the climate of each tea-growing district differs more or less from the others. Even within a single district, the variation between small areas can often be marked. These climatic variations are reflected in the diversity of character that is one of the principal and most prized features of Ceylon Tea. Over the years, Sri Lankan planters have learnt how to get the best out local climatic variations in terms of their effect on the tea-bush and its product. In the process, they helped establish the character for which each region and subdivision of the tea-growing districts is known.
Southwards from Kandy, the central mountains rise in elevation until the plateau of Nuwara Eliya is reached. Beyond, the land descends in a series of peaks and passes before rising again to a second high plateau, known as Horton Plains, from the edge of which it falls precipitously down to the forests of Bintenna thousands of feet below. Between these two high plateau lies the tea-growing district of Dimbula (or, as it is sometimes spelled, Dimbulla). The name is derived from that of the valley which lies at the heart of the region, surrounded by the sub-districts of Bogawanthalawa, Dickoya, Kotagala, Maskeliya, Nanu-Oya and Talawakelle.
The history of this part of Sri Lanka actually begins with the plantation enterprise, for before its pioneers began opening up the hill country, it was uninhabited and almost impenetrable. This was the true Mayarata or Land of Illusions, reputed haunt of demons and evil spirits, where only the most desperate outcasts and fugitives ever ventured never, more often than not, to be seen again. Wild elephants by the thousand, deer by the tens of thousands, grazed upon the high, misty meadows of Horton Plains, safe from hunters and settlers; eagles rode the biting winds, pythons and leopards silently pursued their prey through rhododendron woods and dank, mossy cloud-forests where orchids of fantastic shape and color glowed in the darkness among the tree-trunks all unseen by Man, who had never once ventured here since the dawn of time.
Its isolation ended with the coming of tea in the 1870s. Dimbula was, in fact, one of the earliest districts to be planted in the new crop. The teas of the district were found to produce a distinctive flavor of their own, one that lovers of fine tea prize to this day. This happy discovery brought settlement and commerce to the formerly uninhabited region, though Dimbula and its sub-districts remain wild and thinly populated to this day. Most local residents are plantation workers and their families; the remainder also tend to be occupied in work that serves the plantation industry in other ways, such as supply and transport.
Dimbula teas are characterized as high-grown; the regional definition specifies an elevation of between 1,100m and 1,600m (3,500-5,000ft.), but in practice the regions estates all stand at an altitude of over 1,250m (4,000ft.) It is wet and misty for much of the year, and western-facing estates are drenched by the southwest monsoon between May and September; however, Dimbula also benefits from the cool, dry winds of the western quality season, a period that begins around the turn of the year and continues until March or early April. Dimbula estates yield their best teas during this season, when the air is crisp and cool by day while the nights are cold and windy.
Tasters Notes for Dimbula Tea
The teas of Dimbula, like all high-grown teas, are slow-growing and small-leaved. Dimbula planters, however, focus on flavor rather than leaf style in the manufacture of their products. The complex topography of the region produces a variety of beneficent microclimates, which show up as differences in flavor. All, however, share the Dimbula character: a tea that produces a fine golden-orange hue in the cup, with a distinctive freshness to the flavor that leaves a clean feeling in the mouth after the tea is drunk. The higher the elevation at which it was picked, the greater will be the brightness and freshness of the liquor in the cup. This is particularly the case with tea from the Nanu-Oya sub-district whose high altitude and proximity to Nuwara Eliya results in a tea that bears noticeable similarities to the products of that region. Other sub-districts, such as Dickoya, produce a darker, more strongly flavored tea.
During the western quality season between March and May, the aromatic qualities of Dimbula tea increase, and notes of jasmine mixed with cypress can be detected.
Kandy, then, is the tea-growing district where it all began. Formerly the last redoubt of the Sinhalese kings, it is accessible only via steep mountain passes, which created a formidable obstacle to invasion in the days when there were no roads and the hillsides were covered in thick forest. Such inaccessibility helped the kings of Kandy resist foreign invaders for more than three hundred years. In its temples and monastic libraries, its arts and crafts and folkways, Kandy preserved for centuries the cultural traditions of the Sinhalese people. It was also an important center of Buddhism: the Buddha’s teachings were first put into writing at Aluvihare near Matale, and the holiest relic of the faith, a tooth reputed to be that of the Master himself, was preserved in a golden casket at a temple in the capital. Its possession is said to grant legitimacy to the rulers of Lanka, so when the kingdom of Kandy passed into the hands of the British in 1815, the latter were careful to protect the sacred tooth and continue the rituals, such as the famous Dalada Perahera, associated with it. They continue to this day.
The fall of Kandy opened up the whole of Sri Lanka’s hill country to the British. The capital of the kingdom, which they also named Kandy, soon became the metropolis of the region. When the coffee enterprise began soon after, it was natural that the first estates should be established in close proximity to this ‘hill capital’ – and the recently-established botanical gardens and research center at Peradeniya. The same went for tea: Loolecondera, like all the early tea estates, was originally a coffee plantation, though far from being the first.
The Kandy tea-growing district forms part of the Central Province of Sri Lanka. Though its capital nestles in a relatively low-lying valley, the estates themselves are dotted about the surrounding hills – in Nilambe, Hantane, Pussellawa, Gampola and, of course, Hewaheta. They are not as high up as those in the southern part of the central massif, so the tea of the Kandy region is described as ‘mid-grown’, the altitude of cultivation ranging between 650m and 1,300m (2,000-4,000ft).
The local weather is influenced largely by the southwest monsoon system, the winds blowing in force up the mountain passes, though Kandy itself is relatively sheltered. Many of the estates, too, are clustered in valleys where the wind is less fierce, and the tea they produce are stronger and deeper-colored than the rest of the region’s produce.
Tasters’ Notes for Kandy Tea
Intense, full bodied.
The teas of the Kandy region are said to be particularly flavorsome, though, as with all teas, their strength is inversely proportional to the elevation at which they are grown. In fact, the region produces a broad range of strengths and styles: estates at lower elevations produce a larger leaf with gives a stronger-flavored beverage, while those higher up grow a smaller leaf that yields a more subtle and delicate flavor. Kandy factories also produce a broad mix of different ‘grades’ or leaf-particle sizes, from whole-leaf and semi-broken grades through broken orange pekoes or ‘BOPs’ to BOP fanning’s. CTC-style teas are also produced. Since leaf particle size affects the strength of the brew, the general effect from Kandy teas is one of considerable local and regional variety.
Kandy teas tend to produce a relatively bright infusion with a coppery tone. Though lighter in the cup, they present a good deal of strength and body, though not as much as the lower-grown products of Sabaragamuwa and Ruhuna. Most Kandy-district estates lie on the western slopes of the hills, so their taste is influenced by the ‘western quality season’, meaning that the best tea is produced during the first quarter of the year, when cool, dry weather sets in across the district.
Probably the best-known of Sri Lanka’s tea-growing districts, Nuwara Eliya is also the most rugged and mountainous, with the highest average elevation. The air is cool and bracing; the winds are scented with eucalyptus and wild mint. Rainfall is moderate except during the dry season, which falls between February and April. Nights are cold and sometimes frosty. This unique climate, combined with the terrain peculiar to the region, produces a tea that is recognized by connoisseurs as among the finest if not the finest in the world.
Historically speaking, Nuwara Eliya is a relatively new place. The town from which the district takes its name sits perched on a plateau 1,868 m (6,128 ft.) above sea level, under the shadow of Sri Lanka’s highest mountain, Pidurutalagala. Almost inaccessible in olden times due to the precipitous, jungle-clad terrain surrounding it, this scenic plateau was effectively uninhabited when it was discovered by an English explorer in 1818. Impressed by its magnificent scenery and climate, Sir Edward Barnes, the British governor of the time, resolved to turn the locale into the similar of Ceylon, a fashionable hill-station to which the government and society of the capital, Colombo, could repair during the hottest and unhealthiest months of the year. He accomplished this by the simple expedient of building a house there himself (it is now the Grand Hotel) and occupying it every year between March and April. Nuwara Eliya thus became, for a few weeks every year, the capital of colonial Ceylon.
In the early 1840s, a boom in Ceylon coffee saw the rapid conversion into plantations of parts of the hill country barely explored by Europeans until then. The pioneers who carved out these remote estates south and east of Kandy were lonely men who endured lives of some hardship; in the vale of Nuwara Eliya they found a salubrious and centrally-located place of meeting and recreation. The town that sprang up to serve their needs was a largely womanless place at first, shaped by the interests of the men who frequented it. Clubs and watering-holes proliferated, sporting tournaments and shoots were regular events, but domestic and civic conditions were primitive.
Later, as the boom progressed, wealth and the civilized comforts it brought changed the character of Nuwara Eliya. By the beginning of the tea era, it had become a genteel, somewhat pretentious little town, self-consciously English in character. For most of the British period it remained a largely European enclave, and a few Nuwara Eliya clubs even went so far as to maintain whites-only membership policies for some years after Independence.
But Nuwara Eliya was always a bit too high up in the hills for coffee, and the frequent rains often damaged the crops. The district only found its métier after the great blight of the 1870s and 80s had wiped out the coffee industry and Ceylon planters turned to tea. Desultory experiments with the new crop in earlier times had already shown it could be successfully cultivated there; now, it rapidly became clear that Nuwara Eliya offered an almost perfect climate for tea. By 1875, the first modest plantations were already flourishing, and by the end of the century, Nuwara Eliya was one of the principal tea-growing districts of Ceylon. It was generally acknowledged to produce some of the finest teas in the world a reputation it has retained ever since.
Tasters Notes for Nuwara Eliya tea
Grown at high elevation at the very center of Sri Lanka’s hill country, Nuwara Eliya tea enjoys two quality seasons, the eastern as well as the western. The balance between the two climatic systems varies from estate to estate, and a short drive from one location to another can see a complete change of weather. The tea produced here has a rarefied and refined quality that easily sets it apart from lower-grown varieties. High altitude and year-round low temperatures produce a very slow-growing bush with unusually small leaves that take on an orange hue just a hint against the blackness after withering. The infused leaf acquires a greenish-yellow tone, and the infusion in the cup is the palest among all the regional varieties of Ceylon Tea, with a subtle golden hue and a delicate yet fragrant bouquet.
As with all Ceylon Tea, Nuwara Eliya is available in several different grades. Excluding certain exotic varieties, the most sought-after is whole-leaf orange pekoe (OP); slightly less costly, though still expensive, is broken orange pekoe (BOP). Generally speaking, the smaller the leaf particle size, the stronger and less subtle the tea.
Bearing the old Sinhalese name for the south of island, the Ruhuna tea-growing district lies in what is now the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. The tea-growing terrain, coastal plain with low hills towards the interior, lies mostly in the western part of the province, within the wet zone watered by the southwest monsoon. Eastward, the land is predominantly scrub jungle, with some areas of grassy plain and coastal salt-marsh, growing wilder and more barren as one travels eastward. This eastern region is home to a number of nature reserves, including Ruhuna National Park, better known to Sri Lankans as Yala, whose upper reaches extend into the adjacent province of Uva. The forests of Ruhuna are home to wild elephants, leopards, bears, wild boar and many kinds of deer. It is a paradise for bird-lovers, with hundreds of native and migrant species, including giant flamingos which spend their breeding season among the salt-pans and marshes of Bundala, another coastal reserve.
Ruhuna is rich in history and legend. The liberating hero of the ancient chronicles, King Dutugemunu, was said to have spent his youth here, and the region has a tradition of resistance against tyrant kings and foreign invaders. Once far more thickly populated than it is now, Ruhuna has yielded relics of ancient Sinhalese civilization ranging in age from five hundred to fifteen hundred years, and the now-unpeopled jungle is dotted with the remains of centuries-old irrigation works.
Early European explorers found the region sparsely inhabited except along the south-western coast, the population of the interior having dwindled through centuries of wars and epidemics. Much of the land had reverted to wilderness. Little changed during the colonial era, and even after independence Ruhuna remained thinly populated and backward, a source of economic migrants to Colombo and the Western Province. In recent years, however, a great deal of attention has been focused on development and economic revival in the region, particularly around the coastal town of Hambantota and the ancient port city of Galle. The latter was of great importance before the construction of a breakwater in 1885 created a sheltered anchorage in Colombo, and was well served by road, rail and telegraph, but grew quiet and sleepy during the twentieth century.
Ruhuna was a latecomer to tea. It was only around 1900 that the first estates were opened up among the foothills of the central mountain massif, at a convenient distance from Galle and Matara with their road and rail connection to the capital. At a time when most of the plantation enterprise was British-owned and -run, Ruhuna became an early bastion of the Ceylonese planting fraternity a group that included not only tea men but also those planting in rubber and other crops.
During the early 1970s, political and economic changes in the Middle East resulted in a greatly increased market for the strong, full-flavored black teas that are a Ruhuna specialty. This resulted in a boom, the effects of which have lasted more or less until the present day. Ruhuna is now, along with Sabaragamuwa, one of the key tea-producing districts of Sri Lanka, producing its own characterful varieties. Between them, the two provinces account for around 60% of the total production of the island.
Tasters Notes for Ruhuna Tea
Ruhuna teas are defined as low-grown. The tea-estates of the region all lie at altitudes between sea level and 600m (2,000ft). Although the main tea-growing areas are relatively near the coast, the predominant weather patterns prevent them from receiving the full force of the southwest monsoon winds and the rain they bring. Before the coming of tea, this zone of moderate climate, watered by several small rivers, was devoted to the cultivation of spices.
The soil of Ruhuna, combined with the low elevation of the estates, causes the tea-bush to grow rapidly, producing a long, beautiful leaf that turns intensely black on withering and is particularly suited to rolling. Ruhuna factories produce a wide variety of leaf styles and sizes, from prized tips through whole- and semi-whole-leaf teas to fannings and CTC.
Asked to name the product most closely associated with Sabaragamuwa, most Sri Lankans would probably say gems. The valleys of this fertile and beautiful province are home to alluvial soils rich in precious stones, including sapphires, rubies, moonstones, cats-eyes and star sapphires. The mines of Sabaragamuwa have been worked for over two thousand years, and some scholars identify the province with the land of gems described in the Sixth Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor, as told in the Arabian Nights. Whatever the truth of this, Moorish gem-traders were frequent visitors to Ratnapura, the provincial capital, in the centuries before the European arrival, and the area still houses a large and vibrant Muslim community whose members remain prominent in the local gem trade.
Yet Sabaragamuwa is also Sri Lanka’s biggest tea-growing region or district, whose relative importance has increased since the expansion of markets for Ceylon Tea in the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. The teas of Sabaragamuwa, like those of Ruhuna, are mainly low-grown. Its estates range in elevation from sea level to around 800m (2,500ft). The highest estates lie just below the boundaries of the Sinharaja and Peak Wilderness nature reserves and share in the microclimatic conditions produced by the rainforests, cloud forests and high, grassy plains endemic to this region. As a result, they produce tea of a somewhat different character to that grown at lower elevations in the district. Some of these estates receive the highest rainfall of any in the plantation districts.
Other upper Sabaragamuwa estates receive some weather from the nearby Uva climatic system, which affects the character of the tea they produce in an entirely different way.
The Sabaragamuwa tea-growing district covers most of the western and south-western faces of the central mountains of Sri Lanka. The terrain is hilly, with numerous small valleys cut into the hillsides by streams and rivers draining the upper massif. Copiously watered by the southwest monsoon, it features climatic conditions typical of tropical rainforest: hot and humid in the open, moist and cool where tree cover is thick. Despite being thickly populated, it remains a green and pleasant land, rich in natural beauty. The most famous of its many places of interest is Adams Peak or Sri Pada, a 2,200m (7,000ft) mountain peak, conical and symmetrical, at the summit of which a giant, intricately-decorated and detailed footprint has been carved into the rock. Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims all venerate this relic, whose origins are lost in the mists of antiquity. Adams Peak has been a place of pilgrimage and visitation for longer than anyone can remember, even though the climb is steep and was formerly very dangerous.
Adams Peak is only the most prominent attraction of a land rich in history and legend. Indeed, the earliest traces of human settlement in Sri Lanka, dating back 34,000 years or more, were found not far from Ratnapura. Various legends relating to the ancient Hindu epic, the Ramayana, have been attached to places in Sabaragamuwa; the region also has a number of important associations in history and folklore and was the scene of much warfare and intrigue during the Portuguese period (1505-1658). Tea from the estates of Sabaragamuwa seems to distil the essence of this rich and varied culture, belying the districts twentieth-century rise to prominence in the industry.
Tasters Notes for Sabaragamuwa Tea
Given the slightly wider range of growing altitude and more varied climatic conditions, it is not surprising that the teas of Sabaragamuwa show a little more variation in character than those of the other predominantly low-grown district, Ruhuna. As with the latter, Sabaragamuwa produces a fast-growing bush with a long leaf, very black when withered and well suited for rolling. The liquor, too, is similar to that of Ruhuna teas, dark yellow-brown with a reddish tint in the dry season, though lightening somewhat with altitude. The nose or aroma, however, is noticeably different from the Ruhuna product, with a hint of sweet caramel, and not quite as strong as the latter. This is ascribed to the reduced monsoon exposure of Sabaragamuwa tea as opposed to that of Ruhuna. The flavor, too, is strongly marked, especially with respect to low-grown examples. These are general comments, however, and need not apply to all teas produced in Sabaragamuwa.
Wedged between the Kandy and Uva districts on the eastern slopes of the hill country, Uda Pussellawa is a small, thinly-populated district almost entirely dedicated to tea cultivation. It boasts no large towns, and part of its uncultivated area is occupied by the Hakgala Strict Natural Reserve, which rises up the peak of the same name to a height of around 2000m (6,400ft). The region is famous for rare wildlife and exotic plant species; leopard still roam its forested hills, and have even been spotted on its plantations from time to time. The Uda Pussellawa region includes the sub-districts of Maturata, Ragala and Halgranoya.
Due to its location, Uda Pussellawa enjoys climatic conditions very different from those of the western plantation regions. As with neighboring Uva, the district receives the bulk of its weather from the northeast monsoon system, which waters the eastern slopes of the hill country between November and January. The climate is mostly wet and misty, with the Hakgala region receiving rain on an average of 211 days every year. However, the district also enjoys some blow-over from the southwest monsoon between June and September. Having deposited their rains on the western slopes of the hill country, these monsoon winds turn desertly dry by the time they cross the central watershed.
Uda Pussellawa estates thus enjoy not one but two quality seasons, the western as well as the eastern. This is especially the case with teas from the upper part of the district, bordering Nuwara Eliya (which lies immediately to the west), though elevations in Uda Pussellawa are somewhat lower than they are in Nuwara Eliya, ranging from 950m to 1,600m (3,000-5,000ft).
Tasters Notes for Uda Pussellawa Tea
The tea of Uda Pussellawa is sometimes compared in character with that of Nuwara Eliya, though it appears somewhat darker in the cup, with a pinkish hue and a hint of greater strength. The eastern quality season from June to September produces the best teas of the year, closely followed by the western season during the first quarter. The dry, cold conditions during this latter period add a hint of rose to the bouquet of a tea known for its medium body and subtle character. Periods of heavy rainfall, on the other hand, tend to produce a tea that is darker in the cup and stronger-flavored.
Uda Pussellawa produces a variety of leaf sizes and styles, reflecting the relatively broad range of altitudes at which its estates are situated.
Uva is Sri Lanka’s remotest province. Though not far from Kandy or Nuwara Eliya as the crow flies, access to its provincial capital, Badulla, is only possible over steep, winding mountain roads. To get there from Colombo, one has to drive inland, then skirt nearly the entire southern half of the islands central massif before turning north and ascending into the hills. Access from Sri Lankas other major urban centers, most of which lie on the coast, is equally difficult. In early British times a journey from Colombo to Badulla was a full-fledged expedition, involving beasts of burden, native bearers, and nights under canvas and shooting wild animals for the pot. The whole operation might last several days. The single railway line that connects Colombo with the hill country reached Badulla only in 1924
Still Sri Lanka’s second-least-populous province, Uva today has a modest economy largely dependent on plantation crops: tea in the hills and, on the plains, sugar. Apart from this, most agriculture is of the subsistence variety, and there is little industry. The province is divided into two administrative sectors, Badulla and Moneragala: the latter is southerly, and flat where it is not covered in low, wooded hills; the former lies on the southeastern slopes of the central massif and constitutes the tea-growing region of Uva. In ancient times, these hills were as thinly populated as they are today; however, Badulla was intermittently the capital of fugitive princes and satraps of the king of Kandy during the troubled centuries of Sri Lanka’s mediaeval period.
Despite this obscure history, it was not until the coming of the plantation enterprise in the nineteenth century that the region truly began waking to life. For early Uva planters, Nuwara Eliya could only be reached by a long ride over dangerous roads and bridle-paths; so they foregathered at Badulla instead, accelerating the civic and commercial development of the town in the process.
Even then, it was a quiet, rather sleepy province. Uva was not particularly good for coffee, and due to its remoteness, it was one of the last parts of the country to be brought under the crop. Only with the coming of tea was the districts full potential realized, for the hills and winds of Uva impart a special, unmistakable character and flavor to the tea that grows there, one that is highly prized by trade and connoisseur alike.
Experts ascribe this unique character largely to the Uva climate. The region is exposed to the winds of both the northeast and southwest monsoon systems, but the weather is relatively dry, particularly during the quality season. The climatic balance in each slope and valley is governed by its orientation and exposure; the mountains are cleft by deep passes or gaps, such as Ohiya and Idalgashinna, which funnel the monsoon through them; but at this altitude the winds are usually dry, having shed their moisture on the hills below. In these parts, a change of weather lasting a few days can have a noticeable impact on the crop easy enough to discern since tea here, like elsewhere in Sri Lanka, is picked all year round. The effect is most marked during the eastern quality season from July to September the period of the southwest monsoon.
Tasters Notes for Uva Tea
The unique character of Uva tea is recognized and acknowledged all over the world. It was with tea grown and manufactured on his Uva estates that Sir Thomas Lipton, the great Victorian magnate, first persuaded Americans to take up the tea-drinking habit. The mellow, smooth taste of Uva tea, once known, is easily distinguished from that of any other.
The Uva region produces a leaf that is more blackened by withering than that of any other district. The range of teas produced is wide, with a full range of whole and small-leaf grades as well as CTC varieties. During the July-September eastern quality season, the desiccated monsoon wind or kacchan disrupts normal photosynthesis in the tea plant, while the hot days and cold nights bring about chemical changes that improve the nose and flavor. The manufacturing process must be adapted to take full advantage of these changes, becoming on the whole slightly briefer. It results in tea of a pungent, slightly mentholated character, radically different from that produced at any other time of year.
Estates in the Uva region also produce a substantial amount of green tea from Assamese stock. These teas are produced mainly in the region of Idalgashinna.